By Kai Hoyt
“Coach Dickerson is more than a basketball coach, he is a father figure. He helps his players become student-athletes and good people rather than just good basketball players,” says Pacific Lutheran University senior and basketball captain Cameron Schilling.
PLU head basketball coach Steve Dickerson had a typical childhood. He was born in Columbus, Ohio and lived there until the age of 17.
“I began working when I was 13 years old because that’s just what kids did back then,” says Dickerson. “Sports have been a huge part of my life ever since I could remember.” He played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. “I was always very driven academically and was pushed by my father to be successful in not just sports.”
Prior to Dickerson’s senior year of high school, his father took a job with Battelle as a project manager at the nuclear reservation in Hanford, Wash, according to The News Tribune’s PLU’s gym rat: men’s coach Steve Dickerson. His family moved to Richland that year.
When Dickerson first moved to Richland his biggest adjustment was the small town feel. Dickerson had several baseball scholarships before his senior year of high school. He ended up choosing Washington State University because “I had good relationships with the baseball coaches at WSU and they offered several academic programs that fit my interest, including journalism and political science,” says Dickerson.
After walking-on to the basketball team his freshman year Dickerson decided he wasn’t a college basketball player. He continued to play baseball. Dickerson majored in Journalism and Political Science and graduated in 1969, according to golutes.com coach biography. He had a great experience at WSU: he met his wife, his best friends, made great relationships with coaches and professors, and had a great baseball career.
“I first decided I wanted to be a coach when I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player,” Dickerson says with a chuckle. “I’ve been involved with athletics my whole life and have always maintained great relationships with my coaches and teammates.”
Dickerson’s dream was to become a journalist who covered professional baseball. A few years after college, Dickerson went back to WSU to be a student assistant coach for the baseball team and pursue his graduate degree. Dickerson decided he wanted to coach basketball because he couldn’t watch a baseball game without falling asleep. “Basketball is the one sport where a coach can have an immediate impact on a play,” says Dickerson.
According to golutes.com coach biography, Dickerson was the head basketball coach at Linden McKinley high school in Columbus, Ohio for 33 years. “My favorite athletic moment at Linden McKinley was the Ohio State Final Four in 1988,” Dickerson says. Dickerson’s team went on to beat the second ranked team in the country according to USA Today. “We had no business beating them and that’s what made it so special. We were just happy to be there.”
In 2006, Dickerson was named Head Basketball Coach at PLU. Dickerson’s idea of a great coaching position has always been at a NCAA Division Three school because academics are the most important thing.
“I have always been an advocate of the student-athlete first concept,” says Dickerson. “I have always really enjoyed the people and humanity at PLU, and it is a great place to build relationships.”
Dickerson believes that the most important part of being a successful coach is creating good relationships with the people around you. “Obviously knowing your sport is very important to being a good coach, but relationships (with players, parents, faculty, alumni, and fans) build programs.”
Weekly individual meetings with his players have been a consistent trademark of Dickerson while at PLU. During these meetings he checks in with players on school work, basketball, individual concerns, and any other questions the players may have.
“The weekly meetings help me understand my schedule and what’s due in class, and gives me a chance to talk about things that I can’t normally address during basketball practice,” says junior basketball player Arvid Isaksen.
This time provides the players a certain comfort around Dickerson and gives them a chance to get anything off their chest.
“Doing the right thing for the people you coach and knowing how to deal with individual players are important,” says Dickerson regarding player meetings. “Respect is earned. I don’t try to be a player’s buddy, but this is a way I can take the focus off basketball and show the players that I care about them.”
Dickerson wants to produce the best basketball program he possibly can while at PLU.
“My vision for the PLU basketball program is obviously winning, but I want to make sure players are happy and they become well-rounded people after they leave the program. Dickerson says that in 20 years he hopes his players still have great relationships with each other. He wants his players to have reunions where they talk about all the great moments they shared with each other, on and off the court.
“When it’s all said and done I hope there are more good opinions about the program than bad,” says Dickerson.